As most of you probably know by now, I don’t want to just believe what I believe because other people said so. I want to own my faith, to know why I believe what I believe, and not grow stagnant and content where I am. Over the last decade, I’ve become fairly comfortable with my understanding of the beliefs of the Protestant church, and as a result of that, have wanted to learn more about the history of my faith. Not just knowing where I am, but where we’ve come from, because in order to understand a tree, you need to look at its roots, not just its trunk and branches.
As a part of that process, a little over a year ago I started digging into Catholicism, because, after all, the Catholic church is one of the two main branches of the trunk that is Christianity. And, while it seems that many Protestants have often desired to distance themselves from the Catholic church for one reason or another, in reality, all who have a relationship with Christ and call Him “Lord” are part of the same family. And, while I did go through RCIA and officially became a member of the Catholic church, I consider myself neither Catholic nor Protestant, but simply a follower of Jesus Christ. And, one that wants to know the truth.
One of the big differences between Catholicism and Protestantism is that Catholics believe what’s called “prima scriptura” (scripture first,) whereas Protestants tend to line up with what’s called “sola scriptura” (scripture alone.) While I won’t go into the theological differences between the two, ultimately what it boils down to is that Catholics believe that there are certain things that are on the same level of authority as scripture, whereas for Protestants everything falls beneath scripture. As a result of this difference, there are a number of positional differences between Catholics and Protestants regarding a number of issues, such as the “litany of the Saints” (often referred to by Protestants as “praying to the saints,”) the position of Mary, transubstantiation (the bread and juice used in Communion physically becoming the body and blood of Christ,) the deuterocanonical texts (Old-Testament books considered as part of the Biblical canon by Catholics, but not by most Protestants or Jews,) and others.
While there are any number of issues and positions in the church that don’t really cause more than a disagreement between differing groups, there are several (such as the ones I mentioned above,) that tend to cause a great deal of contention, and, for the most part, are scary for most people to look at because they have been taught a certain way about the issue. However, I can’t sit there, because, in order to know the truth, we need to look at the different sides of the issue.
For most of us, we live in a black-and-white world. Something is wrong, or it is right. There is no middle ground, no gray. However, while there is indeed wrong and right, there is also simply “different.” And often times, something isn’t necessarily “wrong,” but simply “different.” The difficult thing is being able to objectively differentiate between the two – to not just judge something as wrong because it differs from our view, but rather to consider whether it is, actually, just different.
The key is that in order to truly know ourselves and our faith, we must know what we believe and why. And, the “why” can’t just be “because.”